Let's just admit that, whether you love 'em or hate 'em, the '90s are back in a big way. Personally, I'm all for it, especially when it comes to brown lipstick. Sure, some trends should probably just stay in the past where they belong. (Seriously: Choker necklaces, butterfly clips, and all-over body shimmer better stay the hell away from my Instagram feed unless it's a Lizzie McGuire-themed #tbt). But there are a lot of other '90s trends that I'm really happy to see making a comeback, maybe because I didn't get to enjoy them the first time around, like high-waisted jeans paired with crop tops, clunky shoes, and brown lipstick.
I feel like people usually react skeptically when brown lipstick is mentioned, but I strongly believe that there's a flattering brown lipstick out there for everyone. I'm a huge lipstick junkie so I have no problem leaving the safety net of "classic" colors like reds, nudes, and pinks for more adventurous shades like purple, black, and brown. However, if you're feeling a little unsure of how to get into the brown lipstick trend, I have a few tips that may help.
1. Consider Your Skin's Undertones (Warm, Cool, Or Neutral?)
In general, people agree that undertones are important when it comes to picking out makeup that looks good on (rather than clashing with) your skin. This is especially true in regards to choosing foundation because it needs to match your skin perfectly, but luckily with lipstick you can feel free to experiment more with different shades.
Figuring out your undertones can be confusing and complicated, but the basic gist is that there's people with warm undertones, cool undertones, and people who are a mix, or neutral. One misconception is that if you have yellow undertones you must be warm-toned, and if you have pink undertones you must be cool-toned. However this isn't always the case, nor is it always the case that darker skin has to be warm-toned and lighter skin is cool-toned. Undertones are more complicated and varied than that.
So how do you figure out what your undertones are? Honestly, I think the best way is through trial and error. People suggest looking at the veins on your wrist or seeing how you look in silver versus gold jewelry, but that never helped me much. Instead, I tried on a lot of different lipstick colors until I figured out that cool, blue-toned red lipstick (like NARS Cruella) looks better on me than warm, orange-toned lipstick (like MAC Lady Danger). Now I usually stick to cooler shades rather than warmer shades because I know that's often more flattering for me.
So, when shopping for brown lipsticks, you can take into consideration your undertones and use that to guide you. And if you're not sure whether warm or cool shades look better on you, grab one of each and compare!
2. Consider Your Skin Tone
Of course, you can also let your skin tone guide you. These aren't rules that are set in stone, but in general you might be able to pull off a dark chocolate brown if your skin tone is deeper, whereas if your skin is very pale, you might want to stick to lighter pinkish-browns. Xosha Roquemore, above, matches her lipstick to her skin tone, proving that for women of color, brown lipstick can be the perfect nude lipstick.
Beyonce has just a touch of brown in her ultra-vampy oxblood lipstick, and it complements her skin tone perfectly.
Kat Graham also looks amazing with a brick-brown shade, except hers is matte instead of glossy.
Kylie's True Brown shade from her LipKit is a warm, deep brown that looks great with her warm-toned skin.
Meanwhile, Zendaya had fun with brown lipstick that had a very '90s frosted finish.
On the paler end of the spectrum, Elizabeth Olsen makes brown lipstick look extremely wearable thanks to the glossy, sheer finish and the touch of peach.
And finally, Kat Dennings proves that even the palest of ladies can look great with brown lipstick. She could probably wear a darker chocolate shade if she wanted to, but this muted, rosy shade looks perfect with her skin tone.
3. Experiment With Drugstore Lipstick
From left to right: Revlon Ultra HD Lipstick in Snapdragon,$8, Amazon; Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Chocolicious, $6, Amazon; Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Rum Raisin , $6, Amazon ; Wet 'n' Wild Megalast Lip Color in Mochalicious, $4, Amazon
My biggest piece of advice for any new makeup trend that you're unsure about is to experiment with budget brands. This way, if you ultimately decide that brown lipstick isn't for you, at least you didn't spend a huge chunk of change. Plus, many drugstores like CVS have great return policies for used makeup, as does Sephora.
As you can see in the swatches below, these are a mix of warm and cool toned shades, with some being true browns and others leaning more towards red.
I would say Snapdragon is a warm brown with a touch of red in it. It's slightly sheer at first but it's easy to build up the color. It's very creamy and hydrating, and although it doesn't last all day it does wear off evenly. This is a very easy brown lipstick for beginners, especially if you have warm undertones (I don't, but I still like it).
Chocolicious is a dark, true brown that has cooler undertones. It's easy to wear because it's creamy and hydrating, but the dark shade means it's not for the faint of heart.
Rum Raisin has the least amount of brown out of all of these. It's a warm red mixed with just the right touch of brown. Like the other Revlon lipsticks, it's creamy and feels hydrating on my lips and it wears off very evenly.
This lipstick is kind of the gateway drug to real brown lipsticks. It doesn't make too bold of a statement but it's still a nice change from a classic blue-toned red.
First of all, this lipstick is only $4 — so why not give it a try? It has slightly more of a matte finish than the other three, but it still feels creamy on my lips. I would say this shade leans cool, with sort of a purple undertone underneath the brown.
I own almost every Wet 'n' Wild shade (because not only are they cheap, they're also great lipsticks) but I resisted this one for a long time. Now I'm glad I finally took the leap.
If you're looking for a matte brown, instead of something creamy like the ones above, I suggest either Beauty Mark, a rich chocolate brown shade from the new NYX Lip Lingerie line (I've already tried out half the line so I know the formula's great) or Limbo, another deep matte chocolate from the popular ColourPop brand. These are both long-lasting liquid lipsticks that are under $10.
I hope this guide helps if you're interested in trying brown lipstick. In the end, the important thing is to experiment and have fun. After all, it's just makeup and at the end of the day, it washes off.
Images: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash; Kelly Dougher